National housing awards celebrate efforts to promote independent living

This year’s winners of the national Home Improvement Agency and Handyperson Service Awards have been announced at a ceremony in the House of Lords.

Organised by Foundations and sponsored by AKW, the annual awards recognise the efforts of England’s 200-strong HIA sector to offer a wide range of home support to disabled and older vulnerable people on low incomes.

HIAs enable people to live independently in their own homes by providing everything from adaptations to specialised support for people with long-term conditions such as dementia. 

Among the winners and commended entries were HIAs based within local authorities, housing associations and independent charities.

WE Care & Repair, which delivers a range of support across the West of England, has won HIA Service of the Year for its outstanding performance and close working relationships with local NHS staff, social care and housing teams.

The not-for-profit organisation responded to 18,468 enquiries during 2015-16 and on average resolved issues within one day. Some 92% of clients rated its service as good or very good.

Judges were also impressed by its creation of multi-disciplinary teams based in home independence centres, which bring together handyperson, casework and technical staff as well as volunteers.  The move has created a speedier service for clients that is closely aligned with local health, social care and housing services.

This year’s winner of the Handyperson Service of the Year award is Manchester Care & Repair. The charity’s handyperson team carried out more than 7,000 jobs last year. However, far from simply offering a small repairs service, its staff work to a mantra of ‘making every visit count’. All are trained to deliver a comprehensive assessment for home safety and security and hold level 3 City and Guilds qualifications in Energy Awareness and are able to deliver advice on energy efficiency and fuel poverty. Over 90% of initial visits lead to referrals to other services.

More than 99% of clients would use the service again and recommend it to others.

Lancaster HIA, based at Lancaster City Council, has been crowned Home Adaptations Service of the Year for its role in promoting the use of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) to pay for adaptations and promote independence. Together with local authorities throughout Lancashire, the city council drew up a DFG action plan in order to improve access to the grants and share good practice.

Lancaster HIA ‘s caseworkers have worked with local health and social care teams to raise awareness of DFGs and the benefits of adaptations and tackle any delays in vital support. There are currently no waiting lists for minor adaptations or works via DFGs. 

The Collaboration Award has been won by Peterborough Care & Repair, based at Peterborough City Council. Through close working with social care and health services it has become the hub of the Homes Service Delivery Model, an approach to care designed to improve or maintain people’s independence, support people to recover from illness/injury and help people re-learn lost skills or abilities. It combines everything from reablement to assistive technology and is aligned with wider intermediate care services. Its work to help people live independently has contributed to an 18.3% reduction in admissions to residential care during the last year. 

Revival HIA in Stoke-on-Trent, which is part of Staffordshire Housing Group, scooped the Innovation Award for its hospital discharge service. Over the last five years the scheme is not only transforming the support vulnerable people receive on leaving hospital, it is also reducing the chances of readmission and building stronger links between the HIA and health and social care professionals and commissioners. Clients receive a hospital visit within two hours of referral, full risk assessment, “meet & greet” on their return home and  a dedicated handyperson to carry out jobs needed to ensure safe discharge.

Homelife Carlisle’s work with Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) to deliver emergency support to those worst affected by the winter flooding in Cumbria made it a worthy winner of the FILT Delivery Partner of the Year award. Based at Carlisle City Council, the HIA played a key role in utilising the FILT Floods Fund to help people get back on track, by visiting those affected and then carrying out a range of work from drying out properties to fixing boilers and ensuring houses are warm and safe to live in. The holistic approach taken by Homelife Carlisle meant many other issues, such as debt problems and health worries, were also flagged up and householders referred to relevant support.

The Most Influential Agency award has gone to Ealing HIA for its role in the London borough’s Older People’s Partnership Board. The agency, which is based at Ealing Council, has used its membership of the board to engage with the NHS, public health, the third sector, clinical commissioning group and social services and ensure the HIA’s work is widely understood and adequately funded. The HIA also holds regular meetings with both the council and NHS occupational therapists to speed up hospital discharge and ensure a smooth transition.

The awards were hosted by Lord Best at a ceremony held in the House of Lords attended by senior representatives from the housing and health sectors including Care & Repair England CEO Sue Adams, Jeremy Porteus of Housing LIN and Carl Petrokofsky from Public Health England. 

Awards ceremony host Lord Best said: “The quality of the entries to this year’s awards underlines the valuable contribution being made by home improvement agencies up and down the country to support the most vulnerable in society.

“They are very much on the frontline of ongoing efforts to join up health, housing and social care and enable people to live healthy, independent lives.

Vince Moorton, from leading accessible bathroom and kitchen manufacturer AKW, said: “These award winners are demonstrating the vital role of practical, tailored support in the home. They are not only making a huge difference to people’s lives but are also relieving pressure on acute services.

Winners and commendations - best practice